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Nanberry: Black Brother White

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  633 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
The amazing story of Australia's first surgeon and the boy he adopted. Ages 12+ two brothers - one black, one white - and a colony at the end of the world It's 1789, and as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established, Surgeon John White defies convention and adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy, to raise as his son. Nanberry is clever and uses his unique gifts as an ...more
Paperback, 309 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by Allen & Unwin
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The Golden Door by Emily RoddaThe Outcasts by John FlanaganNanberry by Jackie FrenchThe Truth About Verity Sparks by Susan GreenCrow Country by Kate Constable
CBCA shortlist 2012 - Younger Readers
3rd out of 6 books — 11 voters
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana ReinhardtWhen the Black Girl Sings by Bil WrightSomeone Else's Life by Katie DaleThe Great Call of China by Cynthea LiuWhale Talk by Chris Crutcher
YA Adoption Fiction
21st out of 63 books — 16 voters

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Community Reviews

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The First Fleet had been settled in Sydney Cove for just over a year and Surgeon John White was despairing of a ship with supplies ever coming over the horizon. They were down to rationing – food, medicines, rum – the stocks were low. When trouble struck in 1789 it wasn’t to the colony though; the natives surrounding Sydney Cove were dying and it seemed it was an outbreak of smallpox. The settlers including Surgeon White went to the sites where the natives lay to see if there were any left alive ...more
Cait (Paper Fury)
It's another beautifully written, gripping, hard to put down, historical novel by Jackie French. While it doesn't detail a racing plot, it follows the lives of three people -- Nanberry, Surgeon White and Rachel Turner -- and their unfair, hard, though sometimes happy lives. Each are prisoners in their own way, in their own worlds. Each looks desperately for an escape. But sometimes there is no escape.

I loved the simple yet lithe writing prose and the brilliant way the author brings together a s
Christine Bongers
Aug 27, 2011 Christine Bongers rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Eleven to thirteen year olds
Shelves: aussie-childrens
A compelling read bringing to life historical characters from the time of white settlement of this country. Interesting choice for YR.It depicts the violence,squalor and appalling treatment of women in Sydney Cove, the decimation of indigenous clans due to small pox, the cruel mistreatment of convicts in the Second Fleet, and the endemic corruption of the marine corps. Yet despite the horrors contained within its pages, the book provides a fascinating insight into Aboriginal culture, and a ...more
Sep 04, 2011 Sheree rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Aussies, all historical fiction lovers
4.5 stars

This was both a compelling and challenging read. It's the relatively unknown story of the small aboriginal boy, Nanberry, adopted by surgeon John White, chief surgeon of the first fleet sent to establish a convict settlement at Botany Bay. Spanning the years 1788 to 1823, French employs meticulous research of actual historical figures; old letters, court transcripts and journal entries to provide a thoroughly absorbing backdrop to true events.

Nanberry was one of only 3 survivors of the
Lala Smith
Jul 15, 2016 Lala Smith rated it liked it
Shelves: books-for-school
I had to read this book for school. At first I was quite bored with the random, non plot effecting events and scenes. But as the book went on I eventually became used to little dialogs or memoires that were regularly thrown in. The characters were good role models and had commendable ideals. Jackie French's vocabulary seemed somewhat limited or restrained but her writing was good enough to keep the book, at some points, interesting.
The thing I hated was the ending (view spoiler)
Jun 29, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it
Have read another fabulous Jackie French novel. This historical fiction called "Nanberry" is about a young aboriginal boy adopted by the First Fleet surgeon. Many themes such as racism, class divisions, cruelty, responsibility, friendship, and empathy are explored. As usual Jackie has thoroughly researched the topic and includes references to the real people on whom the story is based. She can really bring a story to life. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in early Australian ...more
Nov 29, 2013 Mave added it
I really enjoyed this book. I loved how the writer took us into both cultures. I can't help but feel shame for the way we treat one another, but there is also the wonder of how we can share together. I felt this was well communicated.
Nov 20, 2016 Alyssa rated it it was ok
I was never a huge fan of this book but I decided to at least give it a try. I really wanted to like it as Australian and Aboriginal history is very fascinating but sadly I just couldn't get into the story. I haven't read any Jackie French stories before but I had heard she was a good author. Even though I didn't really like Nanberry I still think it was written well. The premise of this book sounded interesting and it was but I just felt it dragged along and nothing much seemed to happen. If ...more
Janine Robinson
Oct 17, 2016 Janine Robinson rated it it was amazing
It was a beautiful book - very well written and I really loved the different perspectives Jackie French looks at in the book.
Sep 26, 2016 Hadebeer rated it liked it
I was looking for a young adult book to give to a past student, someone suggested this book because it is set in Australia and tells about the life of a young person who has to adjust to a different culture. The first three quarters of the book was good but then the author's research let her down and the main character disappears from the book, never to be seen again. The author spends 40 pages giving info on the characters and other situations that she did not use in the book at the end of her ...more
Kirsti (Melbourne on my mind)
Yet another book that suffers from a deceptive blurb. The back cover tells us that this is the story of Nanberry, a Cadigal boy, and his white foster brother, Andrew, during the early days of the colony at Sydney Cove and how their lives ultimately diverge. In reality, what we get is the story of the arrival of the First Fleet through Nanberry's eight year old eyes, his ultimate adoption by Surgeon White, and the early years of the colony through both their eyes. Eventually, just shy of page ...more
Adele Broadbent
Aug 16, 2014 Adele Broadbent rated it really liked it
I really liked this story. Spoilers below.....

Nanberry is a young aboriginal boy living happily with his family. When the white ‘ghosts’ arrive to Nanberry’s land – so does the smallpox – killing his entire family. On the edge of death, he is saved by Surgeon White, the doctor in the white mans’ camp.

During his recuperation, Surgeon White observes how quickly Nanberry learns the English language – and so he decides to train him as an interpreter between the natives and the English. Lonely in the
Grace Hammond
Sep 13, 2014 Grace Hammond rated it really liked it
This book I had to read for an English assignment, and I never once actually thought that I'd enjoy it as much as I did. It was not only written beautifully, but it reveals the hard truth about Australian history in a way that readers can relate to. It includes significant character development and embodies an essence of humanity. The main reason I loved this book so much was because it taught me the history of my country in a very different way than they do in schools. Jackie French tugs at ...more
Jarvis Ryan
Nov 06, 2013 Jarvis Ryan rated it really liked it
A great short piece of historical fiction for younger and older readers alike. This novel looks at the early years of the colony of Sydney through black and white eyes, primarily Nanberry, a young Cadigal boy, and Surgeon White, a doctor for the colonists, who adopts Namberry after most of his clan fall victim to small pox.
Both are real historical figures, who feature alongside more well-known individuals such as Governor Phillip and Bennelong.
Black Brother White is a touching and tragic tale o
Grace Sunflower
Dec 12, 2014 Grace Sunflower rated it it was amazing
A really interesting window into Australia's early beginnings as a penal colony. The believable, brave and vulnerable main characters are all pioneering victims of time and circumstance. They were all grossly unprepared for the epic challenges they faced; from contagious disease to alcoholism, to corruption, to sexism, to racism and entrenched class hierarchies. Despite this there are many moments of human tenderness. The challenges and concerns they faced and the inherited intergenerational ...more
May 11, 2015 Charlotte rated it it was amazing
Wow! This book was absolutely amazing. I agree with the people who noted that there was no adrenaline or exciting climax but it's a true story, and that's what actually happened. You can't just put random things in a factual story to make it more exciting.
I loved it because it was a way of learning about our history without reading long, boring, non-fiction texts explaining it all. In fact, I felt like I learnt more from this book than I could ever get out of even ten non-fiction books! I am on
Jun 17, 2016 Tiffany rated it really liked it
I read this book to Darcy (10 years old). We were both totally absorbed by this story. The historical aspects were exceptional, and even though the brutal and ugly honesty of our convict past was hard to read at times, it was written in a completely unbiased and well researched way.

Jackie French's descriptions of the land and the Sydney colony made us feel as though we were actually there. Sydney Cove must have been a beautiful place! The notes at the end of the book were just as interesting as
Nik McGrath
Sep 16, 2014 Nik McGrath rated it really liked it
I read this for YA lit at uni. Some people think writing from the Australian Indigenous perspective should only be done by an Australian Indigenous writer. However, I enjoyed this story as I believe Jackie French has portrayed the historical characters she has based her book on as closely as she can to the historical opinions and events of the time. She has clearly done a great deal of research, which is evidence in her references and information in her author's notes. The colonisation of Sydney ...more
I've been reading a bit of fiction (nothing heavy!) about the First Fleet and early settlements in Sydney, so I decided to try this one by Jackie French, an author who's new to me. I don't know if this is one of the books she's written particularly for young adults, but this would certainly be appropriate for the less sophisticated reader.

The fact that it's based on actual diaries, letters and reports makes it more interesting than it would have been had it been just fiction. It's a painless way
Dec 29, 2015 Catherine rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful read that really helped me appreciate what was happening from a human standpoint rather than an historical one. It's all too easy to look back on history and decide who was right and who was wrong. Jackie helps you over that barrier so you gain a more sophisticated view. She writes carefully and honestly - revealing each person's thoughts and feelings. We come to understand that these poor people were just trying to live their lives - struggling to get by, working with ...more
Jan 24, 2012 Michelle rated it it was amazing
I cannot image how invaded the Aborigines would have felt. I cannot image myself living in Australia during the late 1700s. I appreciate and admire the people who came to Australia, who respected the land they had come to and the people who lived here first.
The stigma of being a convict. It has taken generations for some families to leave their convict history in the past. I love that Australia isn’t divided by class. A ‘Gentleman’ can fall in love with anyone and marry her. A person, who has b
Amelia Frye
Mar 27, 2014 Amelia Frye rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: 12 and up
Recommended to Amelia by: Mrs.Sharp
A very well written book appealing to all ages, a have only read a quarter of the book and I am thoroughly engrossed I recommend this book to people for all ages over twelve so you can process and understand the content of the book. The start grabs you in with the plague and the hard ship their tribe went through, surgeon white adopts him and he meets his white brother 'Andrew' and when they develop a strong bond the people of his tribe the 'Cadigal Warriors'. The writer Jackie French has done a ...more
Sue Bursztynski
Nov 17, 2012 Sue Bursztynski rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book, which I read when it was on the the CBCA shortlist. Pity it's so hard to persuade kids to read straight historical fiction these days, without the addition of evil sorcerers and fallen angels, but Jackie French really knows how to write this stuff! It's based on a true story and the surgeon who adopted Nanberry wrote a book which I had no trouble downloading from Project Gutenberg. Great stuff!
Jun 08, 2016 Emmeline rated it it was ok
This book just did not grab me. I love Jackie's writing style, and this book did not disappoint in that respect, but I must confess that for the majority of the read I was quite bored. The plot moved along too slowly for me, there wasn't even a real definable plot anyway.

But this is just my opinion, and if other people love it all I can say is that I wish I do too. I had such high hopes for this book and was so excited to read it. Then when I did get to it, I found it sadly lacking. Sigh.
Vanessa Mozayani
Aug 14, 2015 Vanessa Mozayani rated it really liked it
Was recommended to read this to my stage 2(grades 3/4) class. I did but with censorship as it contained themes that were above their age appropriateness. They understood what life was like for the Aboriginal people and convicts and early settlers. I did not read the class the whole book but enough for them to visualise what life was like in the late 1700s. I enjoyed the story and recommend this to young adults.
Sep 22, 2012 Leanne rated it really liked it

I had no idea, until I got to the author's notes at the end if this book, how much of the story was based on fact. I loved learning more about the early settlement of Sydney. Haven't stopped discussing this since I finished reading it. I know it's a children's book but I'm encouraging my whole family to read it. I think they'll all enjoy it.
Mar 11, 2016 Mango rated it really liked it
These books are such gripping and enjoyable ways to learn about the history of our own country, and that of other parts of the world. French's writing drags you in and introduces you to a sea of facts, not all of them pleasant, and always a wonderful story that sweeps you away.
Jan 28, 2013 Ava rated it it was amazing
Nanberry: Black Brother White

This is an amazing book and definitely my favourite i would recommend it to people aged 11 and up.
it is about an aboriginal boy and a man called surgeon white the book goes through very sad and uplifting part i rate it 5/5
Jan 23, 2013 Asha rated it really liked it
Almost made me cry! But loved it and felt a deep connection with Nanberry and the other characters. I think it should be read to every child in Australia to help them understand their past in a true and honest way.
Feb 08, 2015 Jada rated it really liked it
It was good, I liked it. Four stars. Three doesn't seem right now. Interesting, I guess, and compelling with the Indigenous Australian and historical themes. But, no adrenaline, no climax for me... not my book I guess! Besides, who likes school-study books?
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Jackie is an award-winning writer, wombat negotiator and the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2014-2015. She is regarded as one of Australia’s most popular children’s authors, and writes across all genres - from picture books, history, fantasy, ecology and sci-fi to her much loved historical fiction. In her capacity as Australian Children’s Laureate, ‘Share a Story’ will be the primary ...more
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